Original Airdate: March 6th, 2016
Toonami Airdate: November 26th, 2016
… I’ve come to talk with you again…
Carta seeks redemption in front of Iznario for failing to capture Makanai, and he gives her one last chance after informing her of Tekkadan’s current whereabouts, but he informs her that McGillis will provide assistance to her. On her way out, Carta runs into McGillis, and the two start discussing things before he delves into the history between the two of them, with Carta being a figure for McGillis to look up to: someone who always had his best interest at heart.
Hmmm. Sympathetic backstory for our current villain? Gee, I wonder where this is going.
Meanwhile, our heroes are aboard the train in Anchorage riding out to Edmonton, reflecting on what’s come before and anticipating what’s to come in the future. After Orga runs an inspection of their weapons stock, Merribit tries to talk some sense into him about not letting the youngest of Tekkadan’s crew into battle, but two kids tell her she needs to stay out of it and let them worry about it.
Gaelio is called into a chamber housing a mobile suit that contains none other than Ein in the cockpit, having successfully fused with the Alaya-Vijnana system (although the scene suggests that he may have been more deeply fused into the mobile suit).
The time comes, as Tekkadan picks up an Ahab signal that belongs to Carta and two of her underlings. She issues an ultimatum that the two parties will engage in a 3-on-3 battle and they have 30 minutes to choose their best fighters. Mikazuki, however, is having none of this as he jumps right into battle and takes out both of her minions, leaving the two to engage in a one-on-one fight. The fight rages on for a good while, but Mikazuki clearly has the upper hand as he relentlessly assaults Carta, plowing through her mobile suit’s armor and severing one of the suit’s arms. He eventually has her pinned down to the ground, her face bloodied and body weakened as the cockpit fills up with water. MIkazuki takes this one open spot of opportunity as he grabs her blade and prepares to impale the enemy who’s pursued them for so long. However, the fight is interrupted by Gaelio’s sudden arrival, fending off Mikazuki’s attacks until Orga calls for him to retreat. Gaelio carries away Carta’s destroyed mech, herself in a severe state of anguish and despair (I’m guessing on the edge of death), as she believes that McGillis is actually the one who rescued her. Gaelio, choosing not to rebut her assertion, tells her to relax and assures her that everything will be fine. The episode ends with the crew’s train finally arriving at their destination in Edmonton.
Once again, the series finds itself putting out an episode that is extremely frustrating from a character perspective, chiefly owing to its attempts to make Carta come across as sympathetic. While I understand that it would generally be considered good storytelling to add moral ambiguity and nuance to villains instead of having them just be mono-dimensional mustache twirlers, it’s the way that the episode goes about doing so that annoys me. Once again, the episode decides to hold off on any kind of sympathetic character backstory until basically *right before* it becomes important to the main plot. This is extremely bad storytelling because in order for this kind of information to have any real impact, it needs to be allowed to simmer with the audience for some time. Lazily bringing it up right before a crucial story moment just makes it feel like the episode (and probably the entire show, for that matter) was animated based off the first draft of a screenplay rather than the final draft.
As for why this is frustrating, while the writing and pacing of this character conflict is not up to par, the actual animation and voiceover work make a game effort of really trying to sell you on it. The fight presented in this episode is easily the most visually distinct since the battle with Crank all the way at the beginning, with large wafts of snow billowing around with each movement and swing of a weapon, and the fight choreography is once again in top form. The framing of shots here is also exceptional, with a great deal of focus paid attention to the characters’ eyes: Carta’s eyes filling with tears on the realization of her own failure and mortality, the intensity in Gaelio’s eyes as he tries to fight back the urge to break Carta’s heart, and even a great shot of Barbatos before Mikazuki tries to deliver the death blow, with the angle and lighting/shadows around the face reflecting both Mikazuki and Barbatos’ own vicious murderous intent. In addition, Carrie Keranen’s performance as Carta during her dying moments are as perfect and heartbreaking as they would need to be to make this work. She really shines as the MVP in this episode, taking what is otherwise poorly planned writing and story structuring and trying to make it work as best she can. There are two more episodes left in this season, and it seems like Gjallarhorn won’t let up, meaning anything could happen. I just hope it’s something decently written. I give this episode 6 red flags/10.
What did you think of the episode? Let us know down in the comments below.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans airs every Saturday at 1:00 AM, only on Toonami.
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